While every trainer saddling a horse in tomorrow’s 150th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets owns at least one victory in a Triple Crown race, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher lead the group in Belmont victories with four and three wins, respectively.
According to recent records, Lukas would become the oldest trainer, at age 82, to win the Belmont should Bravazo upset Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Justify in the 1½-mile Triple Crown finale (‘Sunny Jim’ Fitzsimmons was 81 when he sent out Nashua to win the 1955 Belmont).
And Pletcher, should either Noble Indy or Vino Rosso win, would become the first trainer since Lukas won three straight (1994-96) to take back-to-back editions of the Test of the Champion, having won last year with Tapwrit.
Pletcher was just 32 when he saddled his first Belmont starter, Impeachment, who finished fifth behind the Lukas-trained Commendable in 2000.
Seven years later, Pletcher won his first classic when he sent out the filly Rags To Riches to win the Belmont in a thrilling finish over eventual two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.
“Of course, it was special with her being a filly, but it was a remarkable race,” Pletcher said. “There were so many different emotions going through your mind, starting with her stumbling badly at the start, and thinking you’ve lost all chance right at the beginning, to regaining some hope midway through, to thinking you might win it at the top of the stretch and then fearing you might get passed late [by Curlin] … it was one of those races that really gave you every conceivable emotion during the course of one race. It was a mile-and-a-half roller-coaster ride, for sure.”
Pletcher, who also won the Belmont in 2013 with Palace Malice, said he felt good about the way his pair are training going into the race.
“They’ve had a good five weeks [since the Derby], they’ve had two good breezes, and I like the way they’ve been galloping over the main track,” he said. “At the same time, we know how challenging this race is and how formidable Justify is. You feel good about the way your horses are doing, but still mindful of how difficult it would be to win.”